Two weeks ago, I had a moment like that in the car while driving back from our Savage Triathlon Camp in Deep Creek, Maryland. We had just come off the exciting high of having a spectacular weekend of learning, fun and new friendships. Our campers sent their coaches off with a feeling that we'd helped some people not only get faster, but find a love this sport and a renewed sense of fellowship with other endurance athletes. There were plenty of tough climbs, laughs, good food, open water swimming and lessons learned. It was an overall positive and wonderful experience which I will post about in more detail at another time.
It's hard to keep the car on the road when you hear the words I heard from my fellow coach, and friend, Jeremy. He said their had been an accident that Sunday morning. Our good friend Megan had been riding her bike and hit some sort of lip on the road and taken a very hard fall where her head took a majority of the first impact. Her brain had swelled and a piece had to be removed. She was now in a coma and he didn't know much more.
It made all the other things in my life seem so very small and the reality of my friend and what she and her family were going through felt like the weight of world on my chest. I was speechless, you don't know what to say. What CAN you say? I'm not going to lie at some point you also see yourself in that situation and how life could change in such a short instant. We all know these things, but we gloss over them or we would never be able to spend as much time on the bike as we do. We don't have to face them that often, but in times like this you know that it's just as likely to be you laying there fighting for your life. That reality is thrust in front of your face and all the emotions that come with it proceed to fly out while you are also processing this horrible news. Your emotions are raw and right at the surface. You are scared, you are upset and you are not yourself. You look around for answers, and there are none. This is life, this is how it goes, but it doesn't make it easy.
Since that time, Megan's family has been updating us and there has been progress in the right direction. She is now in a medically induced coma and she is healing, but only awake for sort periods. I've been praying every day, sometimes multiple times per day, that God will give her doctors wisdom, that he will heal her. I pray she will come out of this with very minimal brain damage and get to do what she loves again someday. Megan is one of us. She's an athlete. She's competed in tri's of all distances, including Ironman. She came from a Division One swimming background and is one of the most talented swimmers I know. I've known Megan from Masters swimming and from years of being in the same endurance community. Her strength is in her love of her friends and those around her. She has a huge heart and always makes you feel like you are the most important person in the room.
I'm crying as I write this because of how hard this situation is, but how it also reminds me that what we are doing as athletes is much bigger than races or a result on paper. Her sister, Erin, wrote a beautiful update today and said it so much better than I ever could:
"When people ask Meg why she does Ironman, or ask me why I skydive, they often ask because they wonder why we would do crazy things like jump out of a perfectly good airplane (ps there is no such thing :-p) or run a whole marathon after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 miles. Part of it is the excitement and the challenge, but what I’ve learned from Meg’s friends and my friends this past week is that it is the community of friends—an extended family—that keeps us coming back. The laughs, tears, and celebrations you share, and the support and encouragement you get when you are pushing toward the toughest finish line you’ve ever faced—whether that’s in the water, on the land, or in a hospital—make the challenge just a little bit easier."
I too, believe that wholeheartedly. The friends I have met, the people I have encountered, the stories they have told me, the bonds I have formed are so much bigger than swimming, biking and running. There will come a day when I'm not doing this anymore and I know that I'll still be in touch with these people because they enrich my life and make it better than it was before. If I needed something, they are people I can count on and who will be there when times are tough. This outpouring of love around Megan these last two weeks has been nothing short of amazing, but I know exactly why. It's because the people that are in this sport and that are part of this community are nothing short of amazing themselves. We have a love for one another and a kindred bond that can't be broken.
I'm struggling with all of this, but I know that Megan is strong and that the people around her will be strong for her in her times of weakness or struggle that may lie ahead. I can only do what I am meant to do and that is to continue on and do what Megan has always done - raced the race that is set before her with perseverance. Below is a prayer that a friend & fellow athlete said this past weekend at our local triathlon that is very moving so get your tissues ready if you watch it.
People are coming together in such awesome ways and I actually feel blessed just to get to witness their outpouring of support and caring. It brings new meaning to the race I'm about to do and a new light to the purpose of us getting out there and competing because we can.
If you would like to read more about Megan's progress please do so here at their CARING BRIDGE website and please say a prayer or drop a line of support if you would like through the site.
I wanted to go see her yesterday when I was in town, but I've been a bit under the weather with a cough and bit of a cold since last week so I was worried about her immune system and after talking with a good friend decided it would be best to wait until I returned from Tremblant to visit.
This weekend I have a job to do and that job is to go out there and have a blast all day long doing what I love to honor my friend. I hope that my day will show her that we are strong women who can do anything with faith and support of those we love around us. I love Megan dearly and I know she is going to come back to full strength and get back to doing what she loves if it is God's will for her life. Needless to say, she, along with my best friend in the world, Jocelyn, are my duel VIP's for this weekend's race. Jocelyn has not had an easy go of it by any stretch this year after a sports hernia and a stress reaction in her pelvis took her dreams of a first professional season and shot them to the ground after New Orleans 70.3
She's spent the summer sitting around doing arm exercises, healing from surgery and wishing she could be out there swimming, biking and running. I know she'll come back next year with a vengeance and have a great season, but she's really been struggling as you can read above in her blog (as we all do with injury). It's mentally exhausting and this was physically extremely painful so she's pretty much been through the ringer.
I'm always so inspired by her strength and tenacity whether she is going to PT to heal or ripping it up on the race course. I'll be thinking of both these amazing chicks all day on Sunday, that is a promise.
So, here we go! There's nothing left to do but race and be thankful for the many blessing I've received in my life. Kyle will be there so that is a wonderful thing, as well as, my coach, Jesse. I couldn't be more excited to see where things go and most of all, to honor my two friends whom I love and wish the very best for in these upcoming years. If you see a "M" and a "J" written on my body, you'll know what that's about.
Feel free to follow me on Sunday at Ironman.com - Just use the tracker to search professional women. Thank you for all your comments, following me, notes, and best-wishes in advance! I could never have the courage to do this without you! See you on the other side of 140.6!!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such as great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easliy entagles. And let us run with perserverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith -- hebrews 12, 1-3.
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." --Theodore Roosevelt